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A squatter is someone who resides on property that he or she does not own, often with the intent of eventually taking possession of that property. The legality of being a squatter, as well as the rights that such a person legally has, depend on country, state and region, and even between different cities. This makes fully understanding the ability of a person to become a squatter somewhat difficult. In any case, to fully understand what rights a squatter has, as well as the rights of the legal landowner of a given property, local statutes should be regarded.
Certain aspects of squatting, however, are common and can be considered within a larger context. A squatter is typically a person who takes up residence on a piece of land or property that he or she does not own. Usually, the legal landowner is unaware of the person living on his or her land, and this ignorance is taken advantage of by the squatter. After a certain period of time — the time is determined by the region in which this takes place — the squatter can then attempt to claim “squatter’s rights” in an attempt to take full and legal ownership of the land or property. Legally, this process is often referred to as adverse possession.
The legality of squatter's rights depends on the country, state, or city in which this occurs, and different areas that do allow this process may call for different periods of time before it can be completed. If a specific region required one year of residence, for example, then a squatter would have to live on the property without the owner requesting or forcing the person to leave, and without vacating the property, for one year in order to claim squatter’s rights. In a region with that kind of law, if the person did the above and could prove it, then he or she would be able to take possession of the land, as it would be considered abandoned by the previous owner. In some areas, a squatter can even transfer the squatting process to another person, called “tacking,” and the other person could complete the necessary continual occupation to claim squatter’s rights.
In the computer and Internet industry, “cybersquatting” refers to the process of buying a domain name for an Internet website in bad faith with the intention of selling that name to someone else. An example of this would be if a major celebrity was named John Doe and someone purchased the domain johndoe.com with the intent of selling it to the actor or the actor’s representation for profit. Buying a domain name for personal use is not necessarily illegal; it must be done in bad faith and with the intent to use it for financial gain from someone with a claim to rightful ownership.
This article brings to light the importance of knowing the law if you are a landowner. If you own a lot of acreage, I can understand how you may not know if a squatter has moved onto your property. According to this article, squatter eviction may not be as easy as you think in some situations.